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How to Get the Longest Life Out of Your Elements

Repair bulging elements. Please see Paragon’s video before attempting the repair.


How to Get the Longest Life Out of Your Elements

Reader Response: Fusing glass in a wax burnout kiln

Recent Q&As: Firing Prometheus clay; firing a kiln in a freezing basement

A Kiln Story: Lynn’s Forgotten Kiln

Memorable Quote



The lower the kiln temperature, the longer the heating elements will last. For longer element life, fire cone 6 clay and glazes instead of cone 10.

Long holds at high temperatures add wear to the elements. Use only as much hold time as you actually need.

Contact with foreign materials such as ceramic glaze, glass, kiln wash, and glass separator can ruin an element. Keep ceramic glazed ware 1-1/2” to 2” away from the elements since glaze can spatter onto nearby objects at high temperatures. Do not coat the kiln walls, lid, or roof with kiln wash; it can flake off into an element groove and burn out an element.

Occasionally vacuum the element grooves. A build-up of dust can overheat an element and reduce its efficiency.

Repair bulging sidewall elements. Elements that bulge out of a sidewall groove are susceptible to breakage since elements are brittle after they have been fired.

Avoid reduction firings (burning carbonaceous materials) in an electric kiln. Keep a lid on bronze clay firing pans.

Vent the kiln during the early stages of ceramic firings. Avoid using excessive amounts of paper clay. Use a downdraft vent on medium to large ceramic kilns. The vent seems to improve element life by bringing fresh oxygen into the kiln.

When replacing elements, always use new element connectors, and tighten them to your kiln manufacturer’s specifications. Loose element connectors burn out. -----------


In a recent Kiln Pointer I quoted Shirley Jones, who wrote that glass fusing is addictive. Alma Rands of Beaverton, Oregon wrote, “I got a chuckle out of Shirley Jones’ comment on glass fusing. It never occurred to me to even consider fusing glass until I got my wonderful programmable kiln. I had purchased it for wax burnout. Once I learned that the kiln is capable of doing many other things, I decided to try some of them and invested in dichroic glass and fiber paper. I can hardly wait to make pendants.”



Q. I've been working with Prometheus bronze clay, putting it in a kiln pre-heated to 1472F. The temperature overshoots to as high as 1515F after I put the piece in. What ramp would you recommend to avoid overshooting? Is it possible to program a full ramp to get to temperature quickly, and then shut off the kiln and reprogram a slower ramp so that I can put the piece in with less overshoot? Or would it be better to use a two step program with full ramp for the first and slower ramp for the second?

A. Program two segments:

Segment 1: Full rate to 1400F

Segment 2: Rate 400 to the desired temperature.

Later from the customer: YES! I tried the second segment at 400F rate and it worked like a charm. I don't think it went over target by more than 3 degrees--much better than 30 degrees!

Q. My kiln is in the basement where the temperature is only 32F. I was frustrated because I kept getting an error message. So I raised the temperature of the inside of the kiln to 38F with a hair dryer, and then it cycled just fine. I am hoping you will tell me that this is all right to do.

A. Yes, it is okay to use a hair dryer inside the kiln to raise the temperature.



Lynn Golden of Clovis, California wrote, "I learned the hard and expensive way about using a timer with a non-digital kiln. I started a firing in my almost-new tabletop kiln, got distracted, and actually went out to dinner! I got home to find that little thing firing at white heat! The temperature gauge was at maximum and I could see a white glow between the lid and the base. It was so hot that it melted not only the glass but also the ceramic mold (one of my favorites) and damaged the kiln base. Once it cooled off, I discovered that the wiring was fried as well. I had to send the kiln back for repair.

“Since then I have become a strong advocate of not relying on a kitchen timer, but of using instead a loud timer worn on your body. Mine keeps beeping until I turn it off; I wouldn't trust a single-ring timer."



“We owe everything to the development of ceramics, from the simple bowl, the bottle, to nose cones on rockets to silica chips for computers . . . to super conductivity. It is all due to ceramics.” –Mel Jacobson, a potter in Minnetonka, Minnesota


Do you have a kiln story to share? Send an email to .

I am still writing my list of goals for 2011. I will tape the list to the inside of my home office door where I can see them often. I have found that goals or New Year’s Resolutions are easy to forget unless you see them every day.

All of us at Paragon wish you much success with your goals in 2011!

Thank you,

With best wishes,

Arnold Howard Paragon Industries, L.P. – Better Designed Kilns 2011 South Town East Blvd., Mesquite, Texas 75149-1122 Voice: 972-288-7557 & 800-876-4328 / Fax: 972-222-0646 / / /

PRIVACY NOTICE: Under no circumstance do we share or sell your email address.

Copyright 2011, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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